We were having a late lunch, in a spacious room that overlooked the palace gardens. I found it oddly comforting to see the daylight streaming in through the high windows - as if the events of the past days had been a bad dream, their memory fading away in the bright afternoon sunshine. I looked around. The table had been set with creamy white linens, precious porcelain and sparkling silverware. Right in front of me was a crystal vase with a single pink rose and for a moment I just sat there, lost in its beauty.
I reached out and took another bread roll out of the basket, savouring the sensation of the warm and smooth crust against my fingers. I used my knife to cut off a slice of salty, crumbling goat's cheese and I ate, the different flavours and textures almost overwhelming me. I thought of the hot bath that I had taken late that morning, and of the crispy clean linens that I found on my bed each night. I could get used to this, I told myself. Well, maybe not to this, but - at least - a normal life. A home. Regular meals. To live like a human being, not like an animal.
I took a deep breath. Maybe I'd be able to make myself a home, somewhere, some day. That didn't matter now. In any case, it wouldn't do to get my hopes up. I had a mission to fulfil, and chances were that it would cost me my life.
I stole a glance at my companions. Jared was munching quietly, his scarred face unreadable as always. Rodan seemed lost in a world of his own, his plate empty in front of him.
"You need to eat," I said. He didn't respond, continuing to stare down at his hands that were folded in his lap.
I touched his shoulder and he winced. "Are you alright?" No response.
"Fine. I'll leave you to it, then."
I wondered what either of them was thinking. They had been eager to get to this place, and to take me here, but now that we were here they seemed to have no more idea of what to do next than I had.
After having eaten my fill I folded my napkin and leaned back, looking around the room. Again Palace Guards were guarding all exits from the room, the same Guards who had escorted us here. In a strange way we seemed to have become part of the daily routine at the palace, we had rooms assigned to us, we were provided with everything that we needed, and nobody seemed to question our presence.
Somewhere, at the back of my mind, my train of thought triggered a half-forgotten memory, a nagging sensation of something that I needed to remember but couldn't. I rubbed my face, my mind grasping at what seemed just out of reach. Nothing.
I thought of what Agromas had asked me in my dream, vision or whatever it had been. "Have you learned nothing at all?" Learned. Was the answer in something that he had taught me? Was that what he had meant? I sighed. My training as a storyteller. Why did it always have to come back to that?
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